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Bayside Board Discusses Future of Boulevards, Traffic

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

August 24 -- The future of Santa Monica’s boulevards Downtown and how best to tackle traffic congestion were the key topics taken up by the Bayside Board Thursday night.

The discussion is part of a Citywide public process to gather input that will be used to update the city’s Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE), which will dictate how Santa Monica is developed and how people will get around for the next quarter century.

“The whole goal here is very simple -- to get people in a dialogue where the city can have change, but this change doesn’t need to have a negative impact,” said Eileen Fogarty, the City’s planning director.

“Rather than just saying we are going to support or deny a development project based on traffic, let’s get people to think of alternative ways of moving people around the city.”

Issues to be studied include the pros and cons of positioning retail uses near mixed-use housing, the differences in parking situations in single-family neighborhoods and near robust shopping corridors, the character of Santa Monica’s heavily traveled boulevards and the possibility of a light rail station in Downtown.

Some specific traffic issues being studied Downtown are traffic on Pico and Ocean Park boulevards, parking in the Wilshire-Montana area and traffic and parking along major business corridors in or near the heart of the city.

Also in the spotlight are methods of efficiently getting employees to and from their jobs at major work sites such as Santa Monica College, Sony, Yahoo!, businesses in the Water Garden, Saint Johns Health Center and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center as well as smaller businesses in the arts and entertainment industries.

“We have a phenomenal public transit resource in the Big Blue Bus,” said Bayside board member John Warfel. “We have seen it here in the Mini Bus routes, which is certainly well done, and I hope it takes off.”

The figure of 88,000 used to define Santa Monica’s population is a “false statistic,” Warfel said, because there is a huge difference between the daytime and evening populations.

While the number of residents may not have changed much since the last general plan update a quarter century ago, the number of people who work in Santa Monica during the day has exploded, Warfel said.

Most cities in the United States have to deal with this shift in daytime population, Warfel said, but Santa Monica has an opportunity to help people move around the city once they arrive.

Bayside officials don’t support plans to curb the number of visitors by failing to provide more parking. Instead, they are focusing on initiatives that include using shuttles to move workers and visitors to and from parking structures.

“I think people here sometimes take for granted the traffic they have, which has been pretty good over the last ten years,” said Bayside Board member Rob Rader. “If they want to see really bad traffic, go check out what is in Hollywood.

“We are one of the densest areas in Southern California,” said Rader, who is also a member of the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees. “Perhaps we could de-densify a bit and create the green space that we talk about so often.”

There are no efforts to increase Santa Monica’s density, Fogarty said, responding to concerns expressed by some residents who believe the City is approving too much development and should place a moratorium on new construction until the LUCE process is completed.

What City staff is doing, Fogarty said, is looking at how to put appropriate land use and circulation elements in strategic locations in the city such as near workforce housing.

“The LUCE update has got to be something we can get broad-based community support for because, long after all of these professionals have retired from their City jobs, we are going to need a community of Santa Monica residents to stay committed to the plans,” Fogarty said.

City staff is preparing to schedule two October workshops -- one on citywide circulation, the other on the "Industrial Lands" -- and housing and economic development workshops in November and January.

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“Rather than just saying we are going to support or deny a development project based on traffic, let’s get people to think of alternative ways of moving people around the city.” Eileen Fogarty

 

“If they want to see really bad traffic, go check out what is in Hollywood." Rob Rader

 

 

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